When I first started muscle training, I also started consuming protein like a bodybuilder. After a workout, I would chug two protein shakes. Then, at dinner, I would sit down to eat a large chicken breast. In the morning, I would drink another protein shake for breakfast.
It took me a while to realize that I was consuming 110-120 grams of protein per day. The recommended daily dose of protein is close to 0.4 g per pound of body weight. I was consuming nearly twice as much as was recommended for the average person. At first, I thought it was okay. Athletes need to consume more protein, right?
Not so fast.
What is protein?
Before I dig into why too much protein can be unhealthy, let’s look at what protein is. Proteins are chains of amino acids. They are an essential nutrient to the body and are found in all cells. Proteins are also a major structural component of muscles, which is why bodybuilders think proteins are central to building bulging biceps. When proteins are broken down into amino acids, they support the creation of enzymes, blood plasma, hormones, antibodies, hemoglobin and more, according toMuscle and Fitness.
Have you ever heard of the “essential amino acids” touted in television commercials? Those come from proteins. People who don’t eat enough protein can “waste away” as their bodies break down muscles and organs to get protein. It’s important to eat, but like any food, the amount is critical.
Checking the nutrition facts on food products is a good place to start. Many sources of protein are animal-based, like steak and eggs. However, Greek yogurt is also high in protein. Plant-based sources of protein are also available to vegetarians and vegans in the form of seeds and nuts. I typically consume protein through meat dishes and whey protein, which is derived from a cheese by-product.
How much should I consume?
Too little protein leads to “wasting.” Too much protein, a 2012 studyshowed, can increase the production of urea: the main nitrogenous breakdown product of protein metabolism in mammals. Increased urea production can cause stress on the kidneys. This is why people that are diagnosed with kidney disease are often prescribed a low protein diet.
Another2014 study suggests that high protein diets, particularly those that are high in animal-based protein, may be linked to cancer and diabetes… until age 65. (After age 65, high protein diets seem to be okay.) Both these studies were sobering to find. I didn’t want to eat too much animal protein and stress out my kidneys or increase my cancer risk. 110-120 grams may be too much, but what’s enough?
The answer isn’t simple. There is a generic recommendation for 0.4 g per pound of body mass. However, this is for the average person, not someone who works out regularly. Bodybuilders up their intake to 1 g or 2 g of protein per pound of body mass. That seems to be a bit much for me.
One thing to keep in mind is that none of these studies focus exclusively on women. I think that I need more than the 0.4 g per pound but less than the bodybuilder-appropriate 1 g per pound of body mass. According to Muscle and Fitness, some nutritionists recommend 0.8 g per pound of body weight per day. My recommended amount is somewhere between 52 and 100 g of protein per day, which is a pretty big range. My new goal is to be somewhere in the middle.
To meet my protein consumption goal, I’ve dropped one of the shakes and focused on making high protein healthy meals. Body Buildinghas some recommendations for meals, and I’ve adapted them to suit my tastes.
The first is a meal of chicken, brown rice, and kale. Because that sounded pretty boring to me at first, I found this recipefor Moroccan spiced chicken. I haven’t sold the kids on this recipe yet, but I like it. The recipe uses yogurt too, which is another little boost of protein. I also toast the kale in the oven for 10-15 minutes on 400 deg F. Kale chips are better than soggy kale. This meal is 42 g of protein, plus maybe 1 or 2 grams from the yogurt.
The second meal that I enjoy is a replacement for my breakfast shake. Instead, I eat 3/4 of a cup of plain Greek yogurt. The yogurt alone is probably about 10 g of protein. But I supplement it with a scoop of whey protein, which bumps the protein count to about 40 g. This meal is much tastier when I add a half cup of blueberries or strawberries to sweeten the taste. This meal is also a good option for vegetarians that want to consume more protein.
There is no simple formula for determining how much protein you need to consume. Youd need to talk to a nutritionist. Just know that there is such as thing as too much.
Recommendations, like the 0.4 g per pound of body mass, are a good place to start, but they don’t take into account individual needs. I work out more than the average person, so I may need more protein to fuel my muscle building and immune system response. While I’m certainly not “wasting” from lack of protein, I don’t want to consume too much either because that has negative health consequences as well.
Protein is an essential nutrient, but it’s necessary to apply the old adage, “everything in moderation.” I hope my findings have helped you better understand the importance of gauging your protein intake.
Guest Blogger Bio:Kara McManus is a blog?written at https://homefitnesslife.com She’s passionate about helping people meet their fitness goals without having to leave the house. She works from home as a webmaster raising her 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. She hopes her content will make the world a fitter, happier place.